Nation’s charities saw dip in donations
CHICAGO – Charitable giving fell by 3.6 percent last year as Americans continued to struggle with the recession, though some philanthropic experts feared the decrease could have been much worse given the economic downturn, according to an authoritative annual survey released Wednesday.
Americans donated $303.75 billion during 2009. The 3.6 percent decline made it the second-worst year since 1956, when the Giving USA Foundation started conducting its surveys. The worst year was 1974, when giving fell an inflation-adjusted 5.5 percent. However, 2009 also was the third-straight year giving reached more than $300 billion.
“We actually were anticipating a larger drop,” foundation chairwoman, Edith Falk, said, ticking off the challenges that 2009 presented for donors to make charitable donations, including high unemployment and home foreclosure rates.
The survey found that giving to human services, health, international affairs and environment and animal-related groups all saw increases in 2009, while donations to education, arts, culture and humanities organizations fell overall.
“On the margin people were increasing their giving to help those who were less fortunate,” said Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University in Indianapolis. The report is based on research from the center.
The survey also suggested individual giving increased at the very end of 2009, when the stock market rose and media highlighted charities’ needs. The Chicago-based hunger-relief charity Feeding America reported a strong fourth quarter, raising $26.33 million during the last three months of 2009 compared to $20.5 million during the same period in 2008.
This year’s survey results will surprise many because giving didn’t fall as much as expected, said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Washington-based Chronicle of Philanthropy.
Things are looking up recently, Palmer said, citing a study from her publication that found the country’s biggest charities grew by a median of 11 percent in the first three months of 2010, not including giving that went to the Haitian earthquake.
Individual giving, the largest category of gifts, was an estimated $227.41 billion, or 75 percent of the total, in 2009 – down 0.4 percent from 2008.
Corporate giving increased 5.5 percent to $14.1 billion, while foundation grant-making was $38.44 billion, down 8.9 percent, the report said.
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